Thieves to blame for massive Camden fires?

Some of the same firefighters who fought Thursday's vacant warehouse fire in Camden were back on the front lines again Saturday morning fighting an 8-alarm blaze in the 400 block of Winslow Court.

June 14, 2011 3:18:16 PM PDT
Three warehouses in Camden have gone up in flames in just one week and investigators are working on the theory that thieves are responsible.

The first two fires were massive - 12 and eight alarm blazes that sent fire and smoke high into the sky. The most recent blaze wasn't as intense, but still did major damage.

The first fire was at the former Reliant tire warehouse on Thursday, which also displaced 19 families.

"We're going to be setting up a fund to help raise money for the affected families," said Camden spokesman Robert Corrales.

Action News was there on Tuesday as investigators combed through the rubble at Broadway and Winslow in South Camden, the site of a massive fire on Saturday.

Camden firefighters also battled a one-alarm fire Monday night at an old furniture store on Marlton Pike.

Investigators are looking into numerous possible causes for the infernos. One theory is that vagrants are breaking in to salvage scrap metal, possibly igniting the flames with a blow torch.

One person working near the site of Thursday's fire said he often saw men with power tools going into the building and coming out with scrap metal.

Fire Chief Michael Harper said it is an ongoing problem in Camden, which has too many vacant buildings.

"Unfortunately, we do have situations where people are using torches to cut metal out of buildings, they're going in buildings and removing water pipes," said Harper.

Fire officials say thieves removed the brass rings from three fire hydrants near Thursday's fire, rendering them unusable as the flames raged. The hydrants have since been repaired.

"If you see somebody tampering with a fire hydrant we would encourage you to make a phone call so it can be rectified so it doesn't affect public safety," said Harper.

Officials went on to say that while all three fires may be unrelated, they may share a common cause.